Early in the morning, I carry a cup of tea to my study and sit down at my Great Grandmother Ulmer's mahogany desk. This month, sunrise is about 30 minutes away. Although I couldn't see into the dark on Monday morning, I heard a gentle rain falling on the roof. Tuesday, pink and peach streaks in the eastern sky promised a dry bright day. Thursday, the sunrise reflected off the bare tree limbs and gray blue of the northwest sky before the sky turned a dull gray.
Some mornings I scribble a line in my journal before picking up a piece of writing. Toward the end of the work week when I'm too tired to knead words into sentences, I prop my feet up on a nearby chair, sip hot tea, and listen to the quiet. On those mornings, I often read from a book of poetry, marking my favorites with small post-it notes. I marvel at the way a poem tells a story on a page or two. Sometimes I lay the book on my desk and imagine the poet choosing her words. Why did she select gnaw instead of chew? Verbs like dance, hone, descend, pierce, swoop, and swoon paint vivid pictures. I use a pencil to mark phrases like "lapping water on the shore" which convey meaning through sound. Carefully selected words, the cadence of lines, and the space between stanzas bring a measure of peace to the beginning of my day.
The last few weeks, I've been reading "Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet" by Twyla M. Hansen and Linda M. Hasselstrom. While Hansen lives on the edge of Lincoln, Ne. and Hasselstrom in western South Dakota, both women are keen observers of life on the Great Plains. They write about things that matter to me; the seasons, family, friends, fellow human beings, animals, insects, plants, and weather. Some poems made me smile. In "Swiss Cheese," Hansen pokes fun at unnecessary federal regulations while Hasselstrom unceremoniously tells "The Relatives Who Live in My Head" to "buzz off"as she prepares Thanksgiving dinner. Other poems, like Hansen's "Bread," in which she finds a sacred moment in home baked bread or Hasselstrom's musings about her father while "Ice Skating on the Dam" touched my heart. All of their poems are honest, gritty reflections which combine ordinary days and extraordinary moments. This book is indeed a duet, nurtured by a deep understanding of the written word and common ground shared by all.